UCW champ Eli Black and Johnny Deep barely had a chance to dry off after their slippery and wet match last week [#354]. Now [in video #355] they're squaring off with teammates (Hunter Day at Eli's side, and Michael Hannigan at Johnny's) in a tag-team match, which, with the sentimental exception of the one I guest-reffed in 2013, may be my favorite of all UCW's tag contests so far. The four-man brawl (capably refereed by Axel) has all the elements that make tag-teaming rich and satisfying: double-teaming, a belt at stake, pile-ons, betrayal, a candy-assed babyface duo, an open-shirted ref, reversals of fortune, sketchy moral boundaries, a dubious finale, and the unruly force of nature known as "Eli."
Eli and I have some history. For no good reason, the punk with the Kevlar abs has called me out on several occasions. Never to my face, mind you, and always when he was certain I was out of earshot. I'm a gray-bearded man with bifocals, yet I'm pretty sure I could scrub the mat with his lily-white ass, mainly because I've got roughly 100 pounds and 100 IQ points over this pipsqueak. Still, I've got a soft spot for the kid. It's not his fault he's been hit in the head so many times. He's got undeniable star power, commanding the eye every time the camera turns in his direction. You won't find a better self-promoter in underground wrestling, nor a more electrifying badass in a fight. As a wrestler and entertainer, Eli has all the bases covered.
Hunter is less of a known quantity. Briefly (as in one percent of a housefly's life expectancy) he was the UCW champ after blindsiding Nick Diesel, who was champ even more briefly. (Eli eventually beat up Hunter and snatched the belt off his waist.) He strikes me as a good partner for Eli--untrustworthy, overconfident, mouthy, messed-up in the head, and vicious. He should be all right so long as he's satisfied to remain in Eli's shadow, but should he ever step out on his own or seek the limelight for himself, heaven help him. Eli's already kicked his butt twice. The third time would probably destroy Hunter Day once and for all.
Michael Hannigan held the UCW championship for four months, and to his credit he defended the belt more times than his predecessor did in over a year. What at first looked like a fluke win could be interpreted as the first step in Michael's transformation from innocent victim to local hero. He may lack the "killer instinct" of Eli or Hunter, but he seems to possess a keen sense of justice. I like that, but even as champ he was too often upstaged by his more colorful challengers. I don't think we've seen the end of Hannigan's evolution as a wrestling star. He's a quick study, dedicated to self-improvement and pleasing his fans.
The only man on the mat today who has never (yet) held the UCW championship belt at UCW is Johnny Deep, a fact he seems deeply to resent. On the surface he's squeaky clean, that cupid smile has a Viagra effect on a lot of us, but look closely and you'll see a glint in his eyes when he's causing his rival pain--and sometimes you can see the same depraved gleam as he basks in the sharp shivers of pain a capable adversary dishes up on him. More than the rest, Johnny has a real feel for wrestling kink, and that's a definite plus. Skinny and wide-eyed as he is, he's the only member of the current roster who consistently time after time revs my engine. Something about that smile of his, I guess.
That leads me to Axel, the unflagging ref of this match, UCW's original champion, and co-owner (with BodySlam) of the promotion. Axel started out as an avenger of bullies, a role that much intrigued me, comeuppance whore that I am. Over time, some bully qualities have rubbed off on Axel. Although I miss the heroic righteousness of the old Axel, the changes in his character have been mostly for the good. He's shown marked improvement in talking trash, though still lightyears from the virtuosity of Eli Black, Quinn Harper, and Billy Gunn. He's no longer averse to introducing cheap shots in a fight, rather than waiting on his opponent to strike the first low blow. And with each passing year he's willing to show more skin to the camera.
By the way, I've scrambled the order of the screen shots above, more to add to the match's inherent chaos than to spare readers any spoilers. The video is a "perfect storm" of the five men on the mat, each one distinguished in his own right, but totally unpredictable in the company of the other four.